Introducing: Our new press

There’s something special about letterpress. From the sound of ink coating the rollers to the relaxing kiss of an impression being made, this printing method is pure magic.

Which is why, through a stroke of good luck and many months spent on Google, I’m thrilled to have recently purchased a 1970s designed Heidelberg Windmill printing press for Pretty Peptalks.

This 2,600-pound engineered beauty is a spectacular 10x15 red ball flywheel platen press manufactured sometime between 1970 and 1973. She’s currently undergoing some much-needed rejuvenation south of Dallas, but I hope to bring her home to the new workshop this summer.

I know what you’re thinking, and it’s probably: “Why do you need such heavy machinery?” or “What about Pearl?” 

For those of you familiar with Pearl, she was my first press and a Golding Improved No. 11 platen. I lovingly named her Pearl and adored her. She was the star of our Kickstarter campaign just one short year ago and the Employee of the Month here at Pretty Peptalks without a doubt. Plus, Pearl was an antique beauty!

However, my maximum speed on Pearl’s treadle-operated body was only around 300 prints per hour. If I was really pushing it. Compared to the maximum speed of a Windmill, which is roughly 5,500 prints per hour. That’s a huge difference when you have thousands of cards to print!

When Pretty Peptalks was just getting started and I was learning all about letterpress and playing with inks, it made sense to have one, treadle-operated press. Now that Pretty Peptalks has some pretty cool things in the works and we’re looking to expand, I need to spend more time filling larger orders and building relationships with sales reps and customers. Which means less time printing and playing. To keep shipping orders out as quickly as possible—the way I want—something needed to change. Sadly, that one thing meant snapping up a printing workhorse and swapping her out for sweet Pearl.

But don’t be too sad for Pearl. She’s busy living out the rest of her years with a lovely nonprofit down in Waco, Texas. From the pictures they’ve sent, it looks like she’s always belonged there.

The question you may be asking about now is this: “Why is it going to take until mid-summer to get your new press?” Short answer is that there isn’t a letterpress store. I can’t Instacart a part or drive to the closest Target and pick up a press. When an opportunity to purchase printing equipment like this comes available, and it’s relatively close (read inexpensive) transport to you, you must act fast.

A longer answer is because I’m scared. It’s scary to invest in your new business. And it’s especially scary to invest in a new press. They’re not cheap, as they’re literally antiques and technically classified as heavy machinery. Plus, operating a Windmill is a lot to learn, there are many moving pieces and parts. It’s intimidating to stand in front of these two-ton beasts when they’re running. You can’t just walk up, push a button, and make magic (or anything) happen with a Heidelberg. These Windmills are beautiful machines that take skill and practice to operate.

Shout out to Amber at Flywheel Press for her amazing, three-day Windmill Workshop. If you’re curious about letterpress, love a sassy card, or determined to learn how to operate a Windmill, Amber is THE expert and you can find her here.

Buying this press isn’t something I’m taking lightly and it’s a milestone for Pretty Peptalks I’m incredibly proud of. When I started this little stationery company more than one year ago, it was just me. Literally alone in my tiny office, begging other printers to take on my super small print runs. Then it was me and Pearl against the world. That's not who we are anymore.

Now, Pretty Peptalks has higher demand than before. There are small businesses that want to sell our cards in their stores. There are companies that depend on us for their corporate stationery. There are entrepreneurs that send our cards out as part of their branding to leave their mark. And there are all our wonderful personal stationery customers who still want their motifs and monograms on the same high-quality paper Pretty Peptalks has become known for.

And it’s still all created by me.

New press or not, I will still be designing, printing, lining, packaging, and mailing out every item we sell. All done with love and attention to detail. But I’m also now managing scheduling and new client expectations, designing new products, and making big picture business decisions. I think so much about cash flow, marketing, PR, social media, and the future of Pretty Peptalks, I now dream about it (and talk about it in my sleep).

All this to say, if I was constantly doing production printing using the treadle method, I wouldn’t be able to do all the other things that make Pretty Peptalks what it is. So, if printing can be faster and more efficient, then I can spend more time focusing on the things the business needs to maintain and grow.

I hope you’ll join me in welcoming our new Windmill with open arms to Pretty Peptalks. This piece of machinery represents many things about what’s next for our stationery brand. Along with growth and change, the press signifies the ability to continue producing awesome stuff in larger quantities.

And I’m very excited for when I can spend some time, alone in my office, getting covered with ink as I play with this new press.

Now if only I could figure out what to name her…

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